A little more than two weeks later, the 6-foot-4 guard, a rising senior and second-team All-Met last season, had changed his mind and orally committed to Indiana.
“Kenny, me and him are very close, like we could be brothers,” Robinson said last week as he stood within 20 feet of Johnson at the annual Peach Jam AAU event, getting ready to play for Team Takeover. Johnson, a University of Maryland graduate who spent one year as an assistant at Towson, couldn’t talk to Robinson because of NCAA rules prohibiting contact between coaches and prospects during an evaluation period.
“With Coach Johnson there, it gives you that boost because you’ll never feel homesick.”
Robinson’s decision is part of a trend in the Washington recruiting landscape, where a growing number of coaches from the area’s top two AAU programs are being hired to six-figure assistant coaching jobs in the college ranks in large part to lure players from what is considered one of the most fertile recruiting territories in the country.
The DC Assault AAU program has had at least 13 of its coaches ascend to the college ranks in the past decade, including Maryland assistant Dalonte Hill. Team Takeover, which began its AAU program in 2007, already has seen at least four of its coaches promoted to college jobs, and more could be on the way.
“D.C. is a hotbed for players and coaches now,” said Villanova’s Jay Wright, who is considering adding Team Takeover and Paul VI assistant Doug Martin to his coaching staff. “Obviously they know the players, but they’re also really good coaches. The old stigma of an AAU coach is not there anymore.”
Not all in college basketball agree, though. The practice of hiring someone to create a pipeline to a certain player or AAU program has been prevalent throughout the country for years, but the influence these rising coaches have on Washington area prospects has irked some. Two college coaches who asked not to be named because they recruit the area extensively called it “legalized cheating.”
Many have accepted, however, that this is simply the latest example of how the AAU circuit now dominates the basketball recruiting cycle, and Washington area coaches are taking advantage by elevating their careers.
Former DC Assault and Georgetown assistant David Cox was the first hire Rutgers Coach Mike Rice made when he arrived on the job in 2010. Two years later, two DC Assault products — Kansas State transfer Wally Judge of Washington and guard Jerome Seagears of Silver Spring — and Greg Lewis from Randallstown, Md., will likely be in the Scarlet Knights’ starting lineup next season. All three were recruited by Cox, Rutgers’s associate head coach.